Top 10’s: Best Class Legendaries of All Time
Last week we took a look at some of the most iconic cards in Hearthstone: The neutral legendaries. This week, while we stick with the orange cards, we are going to move from the neutral and take a look at the orange cards that have helped shape the identity of the classes. Class legendaries may not be as abundant as their neutral counterparts, but they are just as cool. In fact, I would argue they are even cooler. This list gave us some of the strongest cards Hearthstone has ever seen and some of the most unique. What makes class legendaries so interesting is how big the gap is in playability. While some are very strong and define certain decks, most of them are actually quite terrible. That could be said about all cards, but here the difference is very noticeable. In today’s list we are going to ignore the terrible and focus in on the ten best of all time.
Easily the newest card on our list, Malkorok slides into the honorable mentions because of his strong body and ability to immediately impact the board. While I am skeptical if this card could have actually survived in a pre-standard world (I severely doubt it), it is a very nice tool for tempo decks because it gives them a threat with damage and removal tacked on. Though not inherently strong enough to stack up to the main list, there is enough good going for Malkorok to put him in the mentions.
While this card is far too weak to see play these days, Dreadscale was once a serious contender in Midrange Hunter as a way to counter Secret Paladin and Zoo lists everywhere. It also was fantastic with Hunter's Mark back in the good ol’ days when the removal spell costed zero. Hunters have never been known for their legendaries, but Dreadscale did make a small mark on the class by giving a source of repeatable AOE. The worm never saw near enough play to make the top ten, but its role was important enough to get it onto the list.
What? Not a class legendary you say? I think many, many Control Warrior players would disagree. Baron Geddon has only seen real play in heavy control Warrior, which it has been a star player in since beta. Of course this card has to stay on the honorable mentions because it is technically a neutral card, but it didn’t feel right doing this list without giving the fiery seven drop a mention.
The Top 10
We begin our countdown with a card that did not live up to its hype. When Vol'jin was first spoiled people were ecstatic about the idea that Priest was going to get an actual midrange threat. This card was exactly what Anduin wanted, a big minion that also doubled as a removal spell. You could take down any minion in the game as long as you had two damage, giving you a bunch of reach and putting down a huge threat. However, the troll never got anywhere close to being as strong as people wanted. That is the reason it only makes it to number ten, but it was still strong enough to get onto the list in the first place.
Though Vol'jin never reached the level he should have, the five drop was a very strong addition to the Priest class for a while. Hewas not run in every deck, but he did give Priest just another way to kill things. What made Vol’jin special is that he did not care how much health a minion had. He could take them all down whether they had two, five, or even four health, making him a true kill spell. Though, in the end the faster meta made him too slow. Most threats would either already have low health or you would be dead by the time the bigger minions came down. Even so, he saw his time in the sun and was an extremely strong card. For those reasons, he begins our list at number ten.
Number nine is an oldie but a goodie. It has been a while since Druid has teamed up with Cenarius, but this card was a huge player in both Token and Ramp builds for a very long time. The reason is that his versatility is incredibly powerful, giving you lethal or massive amounts of damage if you have a board, and also supplying 9/12 worth of stats over three bodies if you don’t. It is quite rare that a card sees that kind of swing power, and even more rare that it can do it with such versatility. Cenarius was even better when the combo was running around because, similar to a certain doctor, it could be molded to kill your opponent in all sorts of ways. Nine mana is a steep price to pay for any minion, but Cenarius was more than worth the hefty cost.
As strong as the demigod is, Cenarius remains at nine because of how rapidly he dropped off the map. A lot of strong legendaries come in cycles, but Cenarius left and has not come back since. Though he is always a good option, and though I think he will make a comeback one day, he has not as of Standard. Even the ramp Druid lists today opt for card with more of an immediate impact like Yogg-Saron, Hope's End and Ragnaros the Firelord. Even so, his past play and sheer power make him one of the strongest class legendaries ever.
8. Fandral Staghelm
Number eight on our list is a card that I thought was going to be quite bad when it first came out. However, Fandral Staghelm has quickly proven to be an extremely powerful card (a la Brann Bronzebeard) that can just dominate a game if you aren’t ready. Unlike most class legendaries, Fandral is a low-cost card with very reasonable stats. Both of those are needed for its static ability to be good since you need to get immediate value out of it. In that way, this card is a perfectly-designed package that helps out every single Druid deck.
It is rare that a legendary slots into the entire class, but Fandral was built to help Druid as a whole rather than one specific archetype. He combos with a ton of widely-used cards, from Wrath to Druid of the Claw to Nourish and Living Roots. That much range is very rare any card, especially one that can also be run out early to challenge midgame threats. Though the two cards above Fandral saw more play, he gets the nod to number eight because of his immediate impact on the class and because I think he is going to see a lot of play during his time in Standard.
7. Al’akir the Windlord
Number seven on our list is one of the strongest pound-for-pound cards in the entire game. Al'Akir the Windlord is Shaman’s best finisher and was once their ace-in-the-hole against aggro and control alike. It takes a lot to make a 3/5 good, but slapping on every ability in the book is a good way to do it. The windfury makes him a finisher, the taunt makes him good against aggro and the divine shield means he is always going to get to trade at least once (if not twice). Al’akir has some of the greatest versatility around, and it one of the best finishers in the game, combing with both Flametongue Totem and Rockbiter Weapon. That is a lot of power in one card.
Al'Akir the Windlord is number seven because, while always solid, the elemental has lived in an odd spot for some time. Once upon a time, this card was a no-doubt-about-it auto inclusion, but it wavered once Shaman began to dip down in power level during TGT. Even the decks that were around preferred to run Bloodlust over an eight mana card. However, when Shaman began its resurgence it was very aggressive, which also locked the windlord out. Like Cenarius, this card is powerful enough to make the top 10, but has not seen the amount of play it takes to get into the top five.
6. Edwin Vancleef
Rogues solo inclusion into this list, Edwin VanCleef is a very strong card that is quite deserving of his spot. The three mana card was one of the best cards in the game during the early days of Hearthstone. It then dropped off for a while before making a blistering comeback in the past few months. The time it spent in exile prevents the Rogue card from going higher than six, but the sheer amount of power it has gets it to the list. A three mana 4/4 is already ahead of the curve, but a three mana 6/6, 8/8 or 10/10 is unreal. The fact that you can also tune the card to whatever you want based on the situation at hand (such as dodging BGH) just adds to the power.
What gives Edwin the sixth spot is because he can always work as a gigantic threat out of nowhere. Most of Rogue’s opponents are going to run out of cards spending their removal making sure Valeera can never get a minion to stick. Rogue being able to drop down a 6/6 or 8/8 after that time usually ends the game. Unlike most cards on this list (and in the game) Edwin is never going to be a bad play. During the start of the game you can power him out as a giant “must kill” threat, and during the end he is going to work as an ace in the hole.
I AM MAL’GANIS! I AM ETERNAL! Well, not quite. Though the legendary demon’s time in this world is over, Mal'Ganis was an incredibly powerful card that skyrocketed the power level of both Renolock and Zoo alike. A 9/7 body that had a strong ability in addition to an immediate impact on the board was something almost all Warlock decks wanted. On the best games this came out on turns four, five or six, and even when it didn’t it could instantly end the game on the spot during the later turns. Mal’ganis was one of those rare legendaries you absolutely had to have an answer for or the game was just about ever.
What puts Mal'Ganis into number five was because of how easily he could end games on turn four or five with Voidcaller. Though you may argue that the deathrattle demon is what enabled Mal’ganis to be good, I would argue Mal’ganis’ inherent power is why that combo worked as well as it did. This card was meant to be cheated into play and had one of the strongest abilities ever seen. Ever. Making your hero immune was good in and of itself, but the fact that is also gave your demons an extra 2/2 buff meant that you could use it in Dreadsteed or with Jaraxxus’ Infernals. This card was an incredible finisher that also stood wonderfully on its own.
4. Lord Jaraxxus
As strong as Mal'Ganis was, Warlock’s premier legendary has always been (and most likely will always be) Lord Jaraxxus. Going back to the discussion of Al'Akir the Windlord, versatility is incredibly important when it comes to any good card. While Jaxx is an army in and of himself, he is also a way to heal as well as grind down slower decks. Those three things in combination with each other make the demon into one of the best class legendaries (and cards) Hearthstone has ever seen. Against aggro he acts as a way to save your health (especially during the days of Face Hunter) and against midrange and control he is a never-ending stream of 6/6’s on top of repeatable three damage.
The other reason Jaxx comes into number four is because it is the best anti-control card of all time (sorry Elise). Fifteen health is very hard for many control decks to get to, and not a single control deck ever has had enough spells or power to deal with a 6/6 coming down every turn. Playing Jaraxxus with an empty board is almost always going to be an auto-win against control decks unless they have lethal the turn after. If not, it’s usually going to be a swift GG. There is really nothing bad to say about Jaraxxus, and he will always be played in slow Warlock decks no matter what the meta is his around him. The only reason he isn’t higher is because of just how strong the top three are.
3. Archmage Antonidas
Now we’re getting into the powerhouses. While 10 through 4 has some good punches, none of them can touch the haymaker that is Archmage Antonidas. Though most legendaries are good, Antonidas has transcended that level completely. Most legends are going to be played in one list or have a certain purpose. Archmage broke that mold and acted as a finisher in Tempo, Mech and Freeze Mage. He has seen play in every version of the class, from the most aggressive decks to the most control oriented. There is no replacing what Antonidas can do and there is no denying just how incredibly strong he is. This card is one of the few cards (along with the top two inclusions on this list) that enables a way to turn a hand of nothing into a sure victory. Every type of Mage has an aggressive slant, so giving them two or more Fireballs at the end of a game is almost always going to seal the deal.
The 5/7 Mage legendary is one of the few cards that can just win the game on his own. Yes, he needs a few spells to get the ball rolling, but those come cheap (sometimes really cheap) in Mage. In that way, the wizard is tailor-made for the class. Almost every card in Hearthstone has some sort of damage ceiling that holds them in check, but Antonidas, who can go infinite off of his own Fireballs, does not. That is the reason this card comes in at number three and the reason it has been such a staple for so long. Very few cards elicit the type of fear that the seven drop does, and very few cards can end the game as efficiently as he can. While the top two cards edge out ol’ white beard by a hair, they don’t do it by much. Truly one of the greatest class legendaries, and one of the best cards ever made.
2. Grommash Hellscream
Making his third appearance on my lists, Grommash Hellscream is an incredibly powerful finisher that has given Warrior countless wins (both deserved and not) since the beginning of Beta. Ten or twelve damage from the hand is not the strongest amount as far as finishers go, but it does a lot when you are playing a grindy deck like Control Warrior, a fast deck like Tempo, or a combo deck like Patron. Warrior has had many ways to pile on damage through the years, and backing that up with ten more is very nice. Alexstrasza was one of the best ways to make that happen, but every deck had a way to get their opponent into Gromm range. There are very few cards in Hearthstone that have led to as many deaths as the eight drop, and there’s a good reason for that.
Though it is a tight race, Gromm beats out Antonidas because the charging orc has never once left Warrior decks. Even when Control Warrior dipped in popularity, all of the combo and midrange decks ran Gromm. He’s just that good. There are a ton of activators in Warrior, and each of them are good on their own. Whether it was Cruel Taskmaster, Inner Rage, Death's Bite or Slam, Warrior has never had any trouble getting the legendary mad. Even without an activator, Gromm can be run out for a quick four damage or as a removal spell that suddenly threatens a huge chunk of damage the next turn. He is the complete package. Perfectly tuned for his class and more than deserving of the number two spot.
1. Tirion Fordring
Put your faith in the light! And taunt! And divine shield! And a 5/3 axe! Though his time in Hearthstone started out slow (mostly due to just how bad Paladin was as a class) Tirion Fordring has risen through the ranks to claim the title as the best class legendary of all time. This card is pound-for-pound one of the best ever, has supplied a wide range of different decks with an end-game finisher, and gives everyone that uses him a different tool. Tirion has been played in Control Paladin, N’zoth Paladin, Secret Paladin, Midrange Paladin and even some aggro lists. To some decks he’s a big finisher, to some decks he’s a much-needed end-game taunt, and to some decks he’s just fifteen damage. All of those uses can come in handy, and they all come in one simple 6/6 package.
Tirion gets the number one spot because he has the rare ability where he is good no matter what the game state. His taunt and divine shield protect you from aggro, his large body fights midrange and his deathrattle gives you a way to control the board and push damage. He is good when you are ahead, he is good when you are behind, and he is good when you are tied. There are only a few (very few) cards in the history of Hearthstone that can boast that type of power. Though many class legendaries are strong, none of them have the power to powerhouse of Tirion and Ashbringer. This card is the complete package and truly has shaped Paladin into the class that it is. Few of the classes best decks would have been able to survive without it.
Though the bottom was much lower, the second half of the legendaries seem more exciting than the first. Class legendaries are, quite simply put, just cool. They have very unique effects, very strong abilities, and they all mesh with their class in interesting ways. While those ways don’t always pan out, the ones on this list certainly did. It is always fun to look at the big, flashy cards, and these are the flashiest of them all. I hope you enjoyed the list and I hope you are enjoying the series. Let me know what you think in the comments and thanks for reading!